Appeals Court overturns mosque ruling

Murfreesboro Islamic Center (2)

A Tennessee Court of Appeals panel ruled Wednesday that the Rutherford County Planning Commission did provide adequate public notice prior to approving construction of the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.

“We have concluded that the (Rutherford County Chancery) Court erred in finding the notice provided to be inadequate under the Open Meetings Act,” said Judge Andy D. Bennett, who authored the opinion.

As part of the decision, the Appeals Court overturned the ruling by Chancellor Robert Corlew III, who has contended the Planning Commission should have utilized multiple media outlets given what he has described as the “totality of the circumstances” – a standard that is not required by law.

The ruling is a victory for the Rutherford County government, which has argued it followed the law.

The decision comes nearly a year after Corlew side with Islamic Center opponents who have argued the Planning Commission failed to provide adequate public notice when it advertised in The Murfreesboro Post about a May 24, 2010, regularly scheduled meeting.

It was during that meeting a site plan proposal to build a 52,000-square-foot mosque was approved, in addition to other unrelated projects.

In discussing that aspect of the case, Bennett said “the county provided notice of its regular meeting in the same manner used with respect to all other site plans.”

“At that meeting, the Planning Commission considered a number of agenda items and voted on multiple issues,” he said, in reference to whether the Islamic Center should have been treated differently than other religious organizations.

“We decline to adopt the reasoning that issues of public importance require notice of meeting content, even for regular meetings,” he added. “Such requirements have been imposed only with regard to special meetings.”

Murfreesboro Post, 30 May 2013